Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

vation of the will, as to the nieans : they would rather it were not by the blood of Jesus simply: if it must be so, it must, but they would have it otherwise : they would rather heal themselves : or use the instrumentality of other things—churches, or sacraments, or alms, or penance, anything by which they may be excused from ascribing all the work to the free grace of God. They prefer the teaching of those who describe it otherwise: they are willingly persuaded not to trust the Holy Book: they would rather that their Father's sayings were not true. Are these hearts single ?

Duplicity in any one of these particulars, is fatal to the simplicity of faith. “Let not that man think he shall receive anything of God :" the “ Only” is not complied with. The blessed Jesus, when he was upon earth, often pointed out the impediments to the required faith : we cannot too closely investigate what they were, for they are still the same. Sometimes it was Satan who had blinded their eyes, that they should not believe. Sometimes it was sin, or the love of sin—" Lest their deeds should be reproved.” Then it was unbelief or ignorance of what they professed to receive—“ If ye believe not Moses and the prophets, &c.” In one place, Jesus says, “ How can ye believe who receive honour one of another ?” in another, there was unwillingness to make the sacrifice, “ How hardly shall they that have riches, &c.Every obstacle to believing in Jesus now, will be found to have been in operation then. It was never want of understanding what he said, that made the difficulty: he never required them first to understand how he performed his works; how he healed-how he restored. It was “ Only believe.” To one who raised a difficulty quite natural to reason and experience, “ Lord, by this time he stinketh,” Jesus only answered, “ Did I not tell thee, if thou wouldst believe, &c."

“ Go, wash in Jordan seven times.” Is that all ? was the resisting first thought of the Syrian leper : but it was all ; and had very nearly been that only thing too much. “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.“ Is that all ?” is the resisting first thought of the sinner : but it is all and alas ! it is that all too much. Nay, we go farther back than this : “ We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden : but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it.” “Is that all,” might well have been the first thought then--and most probably it was : but there was one who knew that even that little “ Onlywould be too much : enough at least for him to give the lie to ; and therefore enough to lose the whole human race. Why should life and death be suspended on so small a matter? How could it be ? Nay, it was not possible it should be and therefore Eve ate, and Adam fell, and man was lost eternally. No child of Adam is lost finally, without a repetition, for the most part, many repetitions, of exactly the same process. How can salvation be by faith alone? Why should a man be condemned for his opinions? It is not likely eternity should depend upon so small a matter. It is not possible that faith can save us—and therefore, it ends as it began the commandment has gone forth into all lands : “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,”—the greater number say it cannot be—and perish in unbelief. Apparently then the only condition of human salvation, is not, as is alleged, too easy, but too difficult: so difficult that every thing is preferred before it

every thing is tried before it is consented to; every thing is more readily and easily complied with : so difficult, in fact, that nothing but the interposing power of God's Holy Spirit, ever yet induced a sinner to believe and live. Why is it so ? Doubtless because all other ways are man's ways : and fall in with the tastes and dispositions of his depraved nature, more or less : with his pride, his sensuality, his independence, his self-love, his self-indulgence : often crossing the one to gratify the other ; but always congenial to the self of the entire manhood. Salvation by faith only is of God, and therefore opposed to the whole fallen nature; to all its dispositions—all its tastes—that entire self of which it demands the sacrifice. We know not where else to find an explanation of so great a wonder.

We hear of thousands immolated to the gods of India : chariotwheels streaming with the worshippers' blood, the waters of Ganges strewed with floating bodies—fires never surfeited with their unnatural fuel. Without charity-without love to God or man—not even to his own God, whom he has far more cause to hate--the devotee gives his body to be burned, because he believes he can so propitiate the savage deity whose supposed word he takes for things the most extravagant; unproved-improbable—very often morally impossible. From Moloch to Mahomet, and from Mahomet to Hildebrand, from Hildebrand onward to Johanna Southcote, and something further still : no invention of Satan or fantasy of man has wanted true believers : while we know by the testimony of God's own word, that “ No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”

It is not understanding that is wanting, but submission : it is not knowledge that is necessary, but simplicity. We will not take our Father's word. And whereas this only condition of salvation has been characterised not by the easiness, but by the difficulty of performance,-not by the many, but by the few that would comply with it: the simple believer may well be on his guard against the alleged improbability so often heard of, that so many sincere, devout, and learned men, carrying the public mind rapidly along with them, can be leading us to error: the real improbability being, that the public mind will ever do otherwise than it always has done,-follow error in preference to truth; believe anything rather than the word of God.

THE CONDUCT OF THE BELIEVER, IN AFFLICTION.

PICTURE to your imagination the case of an individual, located many thousand miles from the shores of his native country, and in a situation where he meets with nothing congenial to his feelings. We will suppose him cast on an island in some remote region, the inhabitants of which are savages ; he is surrounded by beasts of prey, a miserablyconstructed hut forms his only abode, he lacks every thing connected with domestic comfort, and, in addition to all this, the climate has a direct tendency to impair his constitution. Under these circumstances, he resolves upon quitting the place and returning home, but in carrying this resolution into effect he has to encounter many and formidable difficulties, both by sea and land. Let us picture him in one period of the voyage shipwrecked on the mighty deep, the vessel in which he sails is firmly fixed between two immense rocks, while the foaming billows break over her, and threaten nothing but a watery grave to all whom she contains. By the good providence of Him who has the winds and waves under His controul, the storm is turned into a calm, the vessel is extricated from her dangerous position, and resumes her voyage ; but e'er long other trials present themselves. The ship, cruising along a coast the inhabitants of which are hostile to the people of the island from whence it set out, launch forth their boats and vessels, in order to capture it and take its passengers prisoners; but they are defeated in their purpose, and the ship still ploughs, uninjured, the billows of the ocean, toward the place of its destination. But his trials in his homeward voyage are only yet commenced ; the supplies with which the vessel was furnished are well nigh consumed at a comparatively early period, and no land is to be seen from which fresh supplies can be obtained ; yet this extremity of man is the opportunity in which God displays His loving-kindness and tender mercies, and the voyagers are sustained, till, at length, all fears and dangers past, the individual arrives safe on his native shore and recounts to his domestic circle, with thanksgiving, the toils and trials of a foreign clime.

Now let us spiritualize this allegory. The believer is the individual situated many thousand miles from the kingdom to which he belongs, for his home is far beyond the stars, even in the third heavens-the region of Jehovah's glory. The world in which he now resides is to him “a strange land and a waste howling wilderness.” Deut. xxxii. 10. In his natural state he loved this abode, but when, like the prodigal, he came to himself, he resolved upon returning to his Father's house and commencing his pilgrimage to Zion. He embarks on the voyage, having first counted the cost, which was to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus. He is not led to expect to have the wind and tide always in his favour, and to proceed onward beneath a cloudless sun; on the contrary, his vessel is often tossed on the tempestuous waves, the billows roll over him in quick succession, and his trials proceed from a variety of quarters; he has his spiritual temptations, his inward conflicts, as well as his outward troubles ; sometimes he is almost shipwrecked, sometimes Satan endeavours to entangle him in his net and take him prisoner, sometimes he lacks, for a trial of his faith, the consolations of the Spirit, and is tempted to think that he shall starve in his passage home; but, mark! God is always better to him than his fears, and in all things he is made more than conqueror, till, at length, he gains the heights of Zion, and finds by blessed experience that

“ Trouble ceases

On that tranquil happy shore.” The individual whom I have allegorically set before you uses no complaint on the succession of his trials. The believer knows that God will make all things work together for his good, and that He who has supported him in former difficulties, and made a way for his escape out of former temptations, will still enable him to set up his Ebenezer and preserve him to the end. Hence every trial which befals the child of God brings with it an adequate consolation, and the suffering saint has grace to rejoice in the fact that a way shall be made for his escape, so that he shall be able to bear all that providence designs for his good. And does not experience prove that afflictions are blessings in disguise, and has not many a believer occasion to exclaim with the pious monarch of Israel—“ It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes ?” How weaning from the world—how purifying these trials are! God, our gracious and heavenly Father, who never afflicts but in love, herein sits as a refiner and purifier. Just as the refiner puts the gold on the fire and removes the dross as it rises to the surface, so God-in the dispensations of His grace, as He beholds the furnace of affliction doing its blessed work upon his children, and causing the dross of sin and worldly-mindedness to rise to the surface of their hearts—takes it away, that iniquity and perverseness may eventually be found to have no place there; and as the refiner removes the gold from the furnace, when the dross is purely purged from it, so God never afflicts His children willingly, or longer than may be for their spiritual good ; and when He sees them conformed to the mind of Christ, and all the dross of sin as it were removed, He delievers them from the trial, takes them from the furnace, that not one precious grain of the gold of faith should be lost; and as the refiner never removes the gold from the furnace till it is so perfectly clear and transparent that he can behold his own face in it as in a mirror, so God never considers that His own children are sufficiently exercised by affliction till it has done, under the sanctifying influence of the Spirit, its perfect work, by stamping His own blessed image on their souls. Hence Job exclaims—“When I am tried I shall come forth as gold;" and St. Paul produces this experience as an evidence of our sonship : “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons : for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence ; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us, after their own pleasure ; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous ; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." Heb. xii. 5-11. In

these verses the Apostle clearly points out the design of all our afflictions, viz. that we may be brought to a state of maturity in Christ, and be made meet for those happy regions where mourners cease to weep. Now, whatever these trials may be, whether of a temporal or spiritual kind, or both, those of my readers who have been disciplined in the school of Christ, regard them in this light; they hear the rod and Him who has appointed it; they regard their afflictions as marks of parental love, and they are not ignorant of the salutary effects which they have already produced upon their souls ; so that the experience of David is theirs, when he exclaims-“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word.” Worldly trials of all kinds are found good for our souls; for they teach us the vanity and unsatisfactoriness of all earthly things; and spiritual trials deepen our experience of the things of God, so that we may receive them not only without a murmur, knowing from whence they come, but also rejoice in them. It is a sign indeed that a great mastery has been achieved over self, and that we are not far spiritually from the kingdom of heaven, when we are enabled to rejoice in tribulation. Afflictions indeed, when rightly considered, furnish material for this, for should we not rejoice in the thought of being weaned from the world and made more spiritual and heavenly? Should we not rejoice in treading the steps of our Divine Redeemer, and being made partakers of Christ's sufferings ? Should we not rejoice in the consideration that if we had no cross we should have no crown, and that the cross is the appointed mean to lead to the crown? Should we not rejoice, inasmuch as affliction is a badge of our sonship, and that all who are eventually to reign in heaven must come out of great tribulation? Should we not rejoice that the light affliction, enduring but for a moment compared with the countless ages in which we are destined to exist beyond the skies, is there working out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?” Yes, beloved, you may well rejoice amid the foaming billows, from the reflection that they only waft your bark onward to the haven of rest; you may rejoice in the heated furnace, because it is intended to purge away your sins, and make you holy, and like the blessed God; you may rejoice because Jehovah has said—“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah xliii. 2.

It is recorded of Israel in Egypt, that the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and grew. Exod. i. 12. This circumstance may be regarded as spiritually true of the Israel of God in every age. How have the fires of persecution in former periods tended to the growth of the church; and with regard to the individual members of the Redeemer's mystic body, how beneficial have been the seasons of adversity, in calling the graces of the Spirit into exercise within them. The effects produced upon the mind by affliction may be regarded as distinguishing marks between believers and others. The men of this world are exposed to trials, losses, and vexations of all kinds, but they produce no salutary effect, and, as the result, only harden the heart in a course of sin and rebellion; but believers receive them as fatherly corrections, and find them sanctified to their spiritual good. Knowing that Christ is theirs and that they are His by covenant union, they can

« ПредишнаНапред »